The British government has stepped in to bail out Transport for London today but Mayor Khan has had to accept some uncomfortable terms to get the cash.
TfL has seen a 90% reduction in income caused by the lockdown and spent the last of its cash reserves today. They have been given £1.1bn in cash and a £505m loan with strings attached. Khan has been running TfL at a loss, freezing fares for the last 4 years and it has been running up big debts.
Khan has had to agree to get the busses and trains back to 100% capacity as soon as possible, price increases, a review of TfL’s finances, seats on the board, ending free travel for pensioners at peak times and regular reports to the British government on staff absence levels. And just to rub salt in the wound he’s had to agree to replace his “Stay at Home” posters on the tube with the British government’s “Stay Alert” ones.
The British Secretary of State for English Transport, Grant Shapps, said that it was important that people from outside of London weren’t bailing out London. Amusingly, he said “You can’t then have an unfair settlement, where other British taxpayers are effectively bailing out the system” which pretty much sums up the Barnett Formula. But the penny has dropped at least as far as London is concerned although it is unlikely to see London cease to be at the top of the table for identifiable public spending in England.
The best thing for Londoners is for the British government to create an English Parliament to take control of the London Assembly and TfL, along with the metropolitan mayors they’ve created in our country so that power can be shared in a consistent and coherent way across England. The money wasted on building the apparatus of state in London could be much better spent on things like affordable housing, tackling homelessness and poverty and stopping kids from stabbing each other in the city. Staffing costs for the London Assembly have risen 82% since Khan became mayor and it employs about four times as many people as the Northern Irish Assembly which runs a whole country (when it isn’t suspended).
London is not a city state despite Mayor Khan’s pretensions.